The inter-ministerial group deciding on whether companies can keep their coal blocks served a peculiar order on Tuesday. It served a show cause notice to NTPC Ltd for not developing three coal blocks; but these blocks had already been taken away from NTPC earlier and had been returned to it.
The time span between the taking away of the blocks and Tuesdays notice is just two-and a-half-year. The decision was a part of 17 such notices issued to firms by the group. There are 13 public sector units in the list of companies served the notices. The IMG had met on October 23.
The 3 blocks,Chhatti Bariatu,Chhatti Bariatu South and Kerandari in Jharkhand have estimated reserves of over 800 million tonne were de-allocated from NTPC in June 2011 after a review committee of the coal ministry found that it failed to delay them in a time-bound manner. But after the power ministry subsequently intervened and assured the coal ministry of their timely development and the law ministry vetted returning of the mines,the blocks were restored to the company early this year. In between there was a disinvestment in NTPC in February 2013 and the return of the blocks increased its valuation for the markets.
Similarly DVCs Saharpur Jamarpani and Khagra Joydev blocks were de-allocated in June 2011 and returned to the company in February this year. The IMG on Tuesday decided to show-cause the company for idling on its mines. Similar is the story on Jharkhand state electricity board,whose Banhardih s mine was canceled in February 2012 and restored to it a year later.
When asked to spell out the reason for serving show-cause to the companies whose blocks were restored a top coal ministry official said the decision to return the blocks were executed in accordance with the advice of the law ministry and requests from respective PSUs and their administrative ministries.
After restoring them,these firms had furnished blueprints for time-bound development of their mines,which has not happened. There can be no room for complacency in view of the increasing coal demand and an extra mile will have to be walked to fructify the blocks, a top coal ministry official said.